16/12/2021 09:01 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Dr. Trang Thanh Hien brings ancient art to public

Dr. Trang Thanh Hien, lecturer at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, is one of the first women in Vietnam to succeed in doing research about the history of religious art. Her research which has been published in books help bring traditional ancient religious art close to the public.
According to Dr. Trang Thanh Hien, most research books in Vietnam were written for the researchers and are hard to read for the general public. That is why one of her research books “The art of Buddhist sculpture in Vietnamese temples” was written in a simple language for the public.

Through the book, Dr. Hien explains about art in the easiest way for readers to understand. She has come up with images and symbols of Vietnamese Buddhism in relation to world Buddhism, to see where the value of a Vietnamese Buddhist statue lies.

“Many Vietnamese people go to the pagodas without knowing the origin and meaning of the Buddhist statues. But after reading my book, they will know which Buddha they pray for at the pagodas. It is one of the most practical reasons for writing books for the public that I need to do”, said Dr. Hien.

Dr. Trang Thanh Hien is one of the first women in Vietnam to succeed in doing research about the history of religious art. Photo: Khanh Long/VNP

 Dr. Hien explains about art in the easiest way for readers to understand. Photo: Khanh Long/VNP

All four research books on traditional and folk art published by Dr. Trang Thanh Hien
received awards from the Vietnam Publishing Association. Photo: Khanh Long / VNP



Dr. Hien in an introduction to folk paintings session at Kim Lien primary school, Dong Da, Hanoi. Photo: Dr. Hien's Files
Trang Thanh Hien started her passionate journey in researching the ancient art in 1998. “I feel that there is a world besides us that exists in our life and society but few people know the insights. Therefore, I feel the need to explore it”, she said
All four research books on traditional and folk art published by Dr. Trang Thanh Hien received awards from the Vietnam Publishing Association. Her most recently published book, "The art of creating buddha statues in vietnamese temples" also received an award from the Vietnam Fine Arts Association.


From 1998-2002, Trang Thanh Hien went to almost all the temples and pagodas in the north of Vietnam. Because she went exploring on her own, at first she did not understand anything and just took pictures of everything she saw. She then learned more by reading books from fine art researchers such as Tran Lam Bien and Chu Ngoc Tru.

In 2000, she did her Master's thesis on the image of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and that was an important first step in her study of Buddhist art.

Hien’s first book titled "The image of Thousand-armed Thousand-eyed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva” was published in 2005. The book was highly appreciated at that time for its summation and assessment of the development of the art of creating an Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue, and was an award-winning book of the Vietnamese Publishing Association.

According to Dr. Hien, Vietnam is a country with a long Buddhist tradition,
but there remains a huge blank area in the study of art and fine art in Vietnam. Photo: Dr. Hien’s files


Dr. Trang Thanh Hien instructs children to print the Kim Hoang paintings at an exhibition on folk paintings. Photo: Dr. Hien's Files



Dr. Hien helps children draw folk paintings. Photo: Dr. Hien's Files



Dr. Trang Thanh Hien instructs children on how to print the Kim Hoang paintings at an exhibition on folk paintings. Photo: Dr. Hien's Files


Dr. Hien brings ancient art closer to children. Photo: Dr. Hien's Files


Dr. Hien helps foreign tourists draw Vietnamese folk paintings. Photo: Dr. Hien’s files


Trang Thanh Hien is talking about folk paintings with members
of the Association of Vietnamese Women Intellectuals. Photo: Dr. Hien’s files

What distinguishes Trang Thanh Hien from other researchers of history, heritage and archeology, according to her, is the study of the visual value of ancient art. Because Vietnam's ancient art is very massive and associated with communal houses, pagodas, shrines and folklore, it is hard to "read" the values of art, point out the style and the relationship between social life and art.

According to Dr. Hien, Vietnam is a country with a long Buddhist tradition. There are many fields in the study of Buddhism such as ideology and history but there remains a huge blank area in the study of art and fine art. This blank area is quite important because it is related to hot issues of cultural preservation and heritage preservation. Hence, controversies are triggered when it comes to building temples and erecting statues.

Trang Thanh Hien is also known as a passionate artist whose art uses traditional materials. She chose a kind of craft paper which the Nung An people use to write and draw from ancient times to express her oriental folk drawing styles.
 
Story: Thao Vy     
   Photos: Khanh Long & Files     
   Translated by Hong Hanh